Unilever: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Written by AriahFine : November 20, 2007

I’m not usually one to sound the trumpet on behalf of brands and corporations, but recently, I’ve been quite impressed by Dove, two of their videos: Onslaught and Evolution, and some of the stuff their doing with their ’self esteem fund.’ They as a large brand identity have media influence that many smaller organizations trumpeting the same causes don’t have, and to the degree that it is helping young girls realize true beauty, I applaud them. Unfortunately, it’s also tied to their brand in hopes of hooking these young girls to the message that ‘true beauty’ = ‘Dove’.

But, that’s not even the real problem. The problem is that Dove is only a brand. A brand that is owned by the company Unilever, a huge international corporation, that creates tons of the brands you are so familiar with. One of those brands, if you look right over here, is AXE, one of the very brands creating the image problems young girls face.

This is one of the huge problems with Corporations attempting to do ‘good.’ Unilever as a corporation is actually bound by law to do what is in the best interest of their stockholders. It seems like they’ve put together a winning combination.

First, they draw in their male consumers through the use of sex appeal to buy their men’s products in the Axe brand, and then they capture the female audience whose been so distraught, depressed, and hurt by the images they’re being forced to compare themselves to by offering them the Dove brand and the comforting reassurance that comes with it.

You wouldn’t be in support of a crack dealer just because he took 15% of his profits and ran a drug rehab facility would you?

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7 Responses to “Unilever: You Can’t Have It Both Ways”

  1. Erik on November 20th, 2007 3:44 pm

    wow… I never knew that about Dove. It’s kinda sinister what their doing as a corporation. Just when you find a company that seems to be telling the “truth,” you find out that in the end - it’s all about the money.


  2. Mark Van Steenwyk on November 20th, 2007 4:59 pm

    Its insidious. It is the fabrication of desire. And the church employs similar tactics because we buy into the myth that these techniques (manipulation of desire) are value-neutral. Too few Churches think about these things theologically…which is vital if we are to develop practices that help us desire God and treat material possessions in properly respectful ways.

  3. Jason Barr on November 20th, 2007 5:22 pm

    Mark - excellent point on the church and these techniques. No technology is value-neutral and, while I would say most techniques can be redeemed at least in some sense there’s something about the manipulation of desire that seems to me to fundamentally disrespect the created-ness of other people. That doesn’t mean all modes of persuasion are disrespectful, but when done in this way I think it’s definitely a distortion of our God-given power to shape our world and that of others.

    Interesting video related to this subject:

  4. Jason Barr on November 20th, 2007 5:24 pm

    Ack, try again -


    If that doesn’t work the URL is

  5. Jason Barr on November 20th, 2007 5:25 pm

  6. Dustin on November 21st, 2007 7:28 am

    What’s even more interesting is that Adbusters has been trying to get an ad campaign up and running with the very same message sans the branding and company “loyalty.” They have tried and tried to runs ads in Seventeen, Cosmo, etc, etc, and have been routinely turned away because the message they are trying to convey “doesn’t fit” with the message conveyed by the magazines themselves.

    Where is corporate responsibility when you need it!

  7. Douglas Walker on November 26th, 2007 11:45 am

    While I agree with the fact that Unilever is very hypocritical, I don’t think it is insidious or any kind of conspiracy. The truth is they are a really big company and in big companies it is difficult or impossible to coordinate different brands in a planned way.

    Given the choice between conspiracy and stupidity, always go for stupidity. The cynic in me, says that they are only talking to different audiences the way they think they want to be spoken to.

    I too love the Dove campaign and if you want to send a message, vote with your wallet and buy Dove products or encourage others to. They are testing the waters of “responsible advertising” and if you want to see more like it, the shareholders will need to see the bottom line results.

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